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SC doctors discuss COVID-19 impact on kids, return to school

Doctors from Prisma Health and MUSC explain how the virus impacts children and give their thoughts on schools returning.

SOUTH CAROLINA, USA — COVID-19 can manifest in different ways in children. 

It's a topic doctor's Robin LaCroix from Prisma Health Children's Hospital and Elizabeth Mack from the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) have studied closely.

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"So, it often will present like an upper respiratory infection that families may have seen their kids go through multiple times, " Dr. LaCroix said. "Runny nose, some sore throat, some headache, fatigue and then fever and cough being the most predominant."

However, that doesn't always have to be the case. Symptoms can vary. It's one of the things that makes this virus so unique, according to Dr. Mack. 

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Another, she says, is that children seem to be less severely affected than adults and also less likely to spread it.

"Kids, actually, often get infected by household contacts -- their parents, their siblings," Dr. Mack said, "and then they don't often, at least the literature shows us so far, they don't often spread it to others."

Some children, however, could be impacted more severely or even develop Multisystem Inflammatory Syndrome, or MIS-C, similar to Kawasaki Disease.

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, MIS-C is a condition where different body parts can become inflamed, including the heart, lungs, kidneys, brain and skin.

"There's high fever. The fever persists for a period of time. There are rash...red eyes," Dr. LaCroix said.

MIS-C continues to be studied and can be serious or even deadly, but, according to the CDC, most children who have been diagnosed improved with medical care. 

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So, what does this mean for returning to schools? Both doctor's agree, in-person learning would be most ideal, but with modified set-ups like many school districts are currently exploring.

"I think it comes back to each family has to make the choice based on their specific circumstance," Dr. LaCroix said. "Every family has a little different situation and needs to understand what fits their family dynamics. I think the school districts around the state are doing a tremendous job taking the input from multiple... infectious disease doctors around the state, their pediatric consultants, guidance from CDC... to create an environment."

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As cases of the virus continue to rise, they added that the community should be working to help slow the spread.

"We've got to get things under control in order to make it a safe environment for both the kids and the adults," Dr. Mack said.

They say parents can be the best defense from children acquiring the virus by practicing healthy habits like social distancing, avoiding large crowds, wearing face coverings and monitoring themselves and their children for any symptoms.